Turi Māori open their very own marae

By Aroha Mane

Today the turi Māori (deaf and hearing impaired) community celebrated the opening of Ruāūmoko Marae.  It was a dream of the late Ivan Tamepo, who wanted to help turi Māori further embrace their culture.

The Māori protocol of pōwhiri is performed in the world of silence. 

Callan Waters (Tainui) uses sign language to express her enthusiasm, “Now that I can see the whare, I can go in it, it's beautiful.  I see the people who have passed that have come before us and it's really warm.”

Rikihana Turner (Ngāpuhi) signs, ”I feel proud because it shows support for Māori deaf.  It's something for us to look to, as something that represents us and know that we have a marae.  Whether we're blind, deaf or any other disabilities, we are all welcome here.”

Tāmaki Makaurau MP Peeni Henare says, “It’s a very unique experience. In a Māori context, these are our people and we need to look at how marae can be more inclusive of our turi community and that’s a challenge we’re facing at the moment.”

For one mother, it was a proud moment.

“I’m very proud of [my son]," says Cheryl Tangiwai of Ngāi Tūhoe, "It made me cry, I thought 'wow', he was so expressive.  It was perfect, it really was stunning to watch, it’s the first time I’ve seen him do kapa haka.  It’s just so breathtaking and so emotional for me to see him with the taiaha.  Wow, beautiful, my boy."

Her son, Holden Tangiwai-Spencer signs, “Yes, I really enjoyed it, I'm much better with the taiaha now.”

Taking pride of place on their whare is the person who most wanted the marae.

Former teacher Carl Ross says, “The tekoteko is representative of a respected elder who worked in the previous classroom.  His name was Ivan Tamepo and he's from Waipiro Bay.”

There is a reason why the whare was named Ruāōmoko.

Michael Wi (Ngāti Maniapoto) says, “Ruāūmoko, when he was in his mother's belly, made quite a commotion and when he was born, they found out why, because he was deaf.”

The marae cost around $700,000 and many aspects of the whare have been designed by the turi Māori community.